Best Cupcakes on the Run 2008 | YumYums Delights | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Cupcakes are the trendiest treat in town. Suddenly, bakeries all over are churning out the loveliest mini-cakes you've ever seen, decorated with sprinkles, dragées and pearlescent dust. In downtown Denver, YumYums Delights rules. Conveniently open until eight every night of the week except Sunday, this is the perfect place to grab something wicked to eat after dinner or before the theater. The cupcakes come in a chorus line of delicious flavors, from pure vanilla, inside and out, to more exotic fluff, including mango tango spice, pink lady, mimosa cream and brown cow. Yum yum!
The Shoppe's master cupcake baker, Emma Lee Bettina Rose Skala (better known as Emma Rose), earned her BFA from Alfred University and has a background in ceramic art — both of which surely come in handy when she's artfully sculpting her delicious little cakelets. She starts with flavors as scandalously rich as Double Chocolate Kahlua or as hip as Mojito or Strawberry Champagne, then tops that with every custom theme imaginable, from a dinosaur to a lifelike mound of violets. Consider this recent special order: Skala created a dozen Totoro cupcakes, each capped with a paper-thin, bunny-shaped chocolate slab decorated in contrasting white chocolate to resemble Hayao Miyazaki's animated character. Pure genius. And the Shoppe even delivers your custom order, via Cheetah Couriers bike messengers.
Northwest Denver's premier cupcake bakery will boggle both your imagination and your tastebuds with its daily specials. On Tuesdays, Peanut Butter Cup and Apple Cinnamon cupcakes are featured, along with the staple variations on vanilla, chocolate and red-velvet cake; on Wednesdays, it's Carrot Cake and Cookies & Cream. The daily deals continue through Saturday, offering such unique flavors as a maple-infused French Toast, Orange Creamsicle, Jack & Coke (cola cake with bourbon frosting), Strawberry Pretzel and Root Beer Float. And you just never know what Thursday's Mystery Flavor will turn out to be! Live dangerously, cupcake.
"There's a lot of magic involved with time travel," says Valerie Griffin, who first became entranced with costumery at the age of six, when her grandmother made an opulent southern-belle gown for her cat. As she grew up, Griffin did theater costumes for school plays; later, she worked the Halloween season in a shop in Arvada. Today she dances to her own piper when it comes to costume-making, and her creations usually start with reconstituted thrift-store finds that, with a little of the aforementioned magic and some guidance from antique patterns, she transforms into the Civil War-era, Cleopatra or Sergeant Pepper's garb she sees in her head. Give Griffin some time and space and she'll come up with whatever it is you need — or rent something from her private collection. It's dress-up at its best.
It's springtime again, which means it's time for everybody's least-favorite activity: spring cleaning. As if scouring the house from top to bottom weren't daunting and un-fun enough, the cleaning products available in the supermarket tend to not be so great for the environment — or you, for that matter. And if you've got babies crawling around on the floor, using chemical-laden liquids might even be dangerous. That's where the Natural Cleaning Products class at MoonDance Botanicals comes in. For $20, learn to make your own herbal products that will clear your home of just as much dust and dirt as the hard-core grocery-store stuff but will keep you and your family much healthier. The class includes the main ingredients you need to tackle the most difficult cleaning issues, plus you'll create an all-purpose aromatherapeutic cleanser and a softly abrasive scrub. Clean is in.
Brewing coffee smells so good in the morning; the scent alone can take the edge off your sleepiness. And now there's another reason to perk up: Brothers David and Michael Hartkop have created Solar Roast Coffee, which uses patent-pending solar roasters, organic beans and is 100 percent carbon-neutral in its roasting. When the sun isn't shining, Solar Roast uses a standard shop roaster but purchases carbon-offset credits from solar-energy providers around the country. You can purchase the coffee online in sample packs, specially crafted blends, or single-origin organics. Go ahead, have another cup.
In fashion as in life, you've got to look like money to make money. But how to address the catch-22 of clothing when you're too broke to browse at a halfway decent store? At the Banana Republic Factory Store, a wallet-friendly wardrobe awaits even the lowliest corporate climber. The racks are lined with seasonal staples that bear a reasonable resemblance to the clothes at the "real" Banana, for about a third of the price. The clearance rack is an absolute treasure trove of cheap duds that will pass muster at any board meeting or job interview. It's a quick fix for a closet crisis.
First dates can be tricky: Bars are loud, dinner leaves time for awkward silences, and movies aren't conducive to getting to know someone. But a cooking class is the perfect mix of talk and action. At Cook Street School of Fine Cooking, you can bond over the hands-on task of preparing food while mingling with the rest of the class. At the end, you enjoy the gourmet meal you created — classic French or Italian cuisine are among numerous choices — with a relaxing glass of wine. And with forty classes teaching technique as well as recipes, you can come back for a second, or even a third, date.
Shopping at Virgin Records for your music needs is, like, so mainstream. Take a hint from the folks at Suburban Home Records and the Vinyl Collective: Attend their Punk Rock Flea Market, which takes place on the second Saturday of each month from noon to 5 p.m. at the uber-hip 3 Kings Tavern, and browse the vinyl, used CDs and overstock T-shirts — not to mention the tables set up for bands, clothing shops, artists, fashion designers and more. While you shop, local musicians will add to the ambience with acoustic sets. And beer will be available, too. Oh, and there's no cover charge. How punk-rock is that?
"Free toys." There might not be a better combination of words in the English language (and that includes "open bar"). Just the thought of such an extravagance sends children — and their parents — into paroxysms of delight. Amazingly, such a thing actually exists, courtesy of the Denver Toy Library at the Denver Public Library's Smiley branch. Three times a week, the volunteer operation in the library's basement unlocks its stash of hundreds of toys, games and puzzles geared to ages zero to eight, as it's done for more than two decades, and the place turns into a romper room. Thankfully, you can check out three toys and take them home with you. Now, about that open bar...

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